Croatian processor supplies range of exclusive products to up-scale buyers

EM5 17 PRO Riba DrazinRiba Drazin, an expanding processing company, was founded in 2013 in the small fishing town Kastela Kambelovac in Dalmatia, Croatia, by award-winning innovator and entrepreneur, Zivko Drazin.

For generations, people in the town of Kastela have been involved in fishing and fish processing, and especially in the traditional hand salting and marinating of anchovies and sardines. Among the oldest inhabitants of the town is the Drazin family, one of the few remaining that still nurtures the traditional manual way of production.

Zivko Dravin started as a small-scale fisherman, but recognising the potential for traditional fish products to be offered to tourists and restaurants, he invested all his earnings in a processing facility. Since 2013, the company has been expanding and Mr Dravin is now contemplating an upgrade to his existing plant to better respond to market needs and to accommodate future growth. Today the company manufactures a range of high-quality products that are widely recognized as delicacies. His secret is the high quality raw material that he sources from the area in close cooperation with the local fishermen that fish in the Adriatic Sea. In addition, the facility has a HACCP plan in place and close attention is paid to quality control of all the ingredients, as well as to all the stages of production.

The company’s main brand is “Pepefish” and one of its most popular products is sweet-sour, red peppers filled with rolled anchovy fillets and packaged in oil. The recipe, says Mr Drazin, is Internationally patented, and uses only local products and traditional ways to prepare them. The company's other value-added products include marinated anchovy fillets and seabream fillets, salted anchovy fillets, fish pate made of peppers and salted anchovies, and luxury products such as marinated tuna and octopus. In addition to the fish products, the company also processes olives harvested from the Drazin family's olive grove, and Dalmatian herbs such as capers (Capparis spinosa) and rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum) gathered by himself and his family.

High level events, restaurants, and hotels as the main markets

Most of the products (80%) made by Riba Drazin are sold locally in Croatia, while the remainder is exported to in Slovenia, Austria, and Ukraine. Interest in our products has been increasing and we plan to open a branch in Slovenia soon, says Mr Dravin. Hotels, embassies, restaurants, delicatessen and specialized shops, as well as at various high-level events, are the main buyers of the company's products. Tourists, who flock to the Adriatic coast from June to September, are also big consumers of the products.

The company cannot meet the demand for its products, yet expanding the factory and upgrading the equipment is expensive and difficult. “We see an opportunity to solve this problem through the EMFF, the European Fisheries and Maritime fund of the European Union, where support is available for investments in processing of fisheries and aquaculture products”, says Mr Drazin, who will use the assistance of the entrepreneurial centre in Kastela to make the application.

Marinated musky octopus to contribute in diversification

The company has ambitions to expand the product range with new added value products made from less well known, yet at the same time more accessible, species such as musky octopus (Eledone moschata). Experimenting with new ideas and new products are on-going activities that distinguish Riba Drazin from other big processors. Another advantage is that Mr Drazin does not have a middleman in the distribution chain, which brings him closer to the buyer. Riba Drazin also follows the latest trends among consumers, so it is possible to buy its products directly on the web shop (www.riba-drazin.com). As a next step, the company hopes to start distributing its products to supermarkets.

Products are promoted mostly by word of mouth and by exhibiting at various seafood fairs, locally or internationally (co-exhibiting with the Croatian Chamber of Economy), a most effective way for company to reach the new potential consumers.  Good collaboration with experts such a professor dr. Roman Safner from the Department of Fisheries at the Faculty of Agriculture, Zagreb, who gives us valuable advice about the latest trends in the seafood industry keep us a step ahead of others, says Mr Drazin.